Tech Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2021

journal
Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

In 2021 I published 32 posts on the blog, this was less than in 2020 when I wrote 43 blog posts. Compared to 2019 when I wrote just 18. 

In 2019 none of the top ten posts were written in 2019. This time six of the posts were published in 2020, three were published in 2021 and one was from 2015.

Number ten was from June 2020 when I wrote about our gas metre: How are we using gas overnight with our new smart meter? Having had a smart metre installed, I started to notice that we seemed to be using a fair amount of gas and electricity overnight! This made no sense, as we didn’t have the heating on, no hot water was running and the only electrical device running was the fridge!

In Ninth place was a post from May 2020 about the death of my Pogo printer titled, No more Pogo. I had bought the Pogo back in 2009 and it lasted over ten years. I got a replacement Zip printer last Christmas.

polaroid zip printer

The eighth most popular blog post on the blog was from April 2021 and was a series of images (virtual backgrounds) I wanted to use for online meetings over the summer: Ten Amazing Summer Zoom and Teams Backgrounds.

Sunflowers
Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

At number seven was a post from December 2020 about Using iPad as separate whiteboard in Zoom, which was a follow on post from one I had written about using an iPad in Teams

The sixth most popular blog post was from December 2020, Ten Great Christmas Zoom and Teams Backgrounds. Using the excellent image sites, Unsplash and Pixabay, I put together ten festive images that could be used as backgrounds for Zoom and Teams meetings.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

In July 2021, there I was opening a PowerPoint file from my OneDrive folder when I got this error message: Sorry, PowerPoint can’t read ^0. I couldn’t open any of my files on OneDrive. Having looked around for a solution and to be honest it wasn’t too much help. I did try and reset OneDrive but this didn’t work. I was convinced that this was a permissions issue rather than file corruption or data loss. The file sizes looked fine for example. In the end though I did come up with a solution which I wrote up as a blog post to help others: Solving the Sorry PowerPoint can’t read ^0 error and this was the fifth most popular blog post this year.

Having used the BBC backgrounds for a while and having some photographs when I visited The Harry Potter Studio Tour I decided to share some of the more suitable photos as backgrounds for Zoom and Teams and this was the fourth most popular post on the blog in 2020 and 2021: Harry Potter Teams and Zoom Backgrounds

In third place for the second year running was a post from May 2020, on how the amazing BBC Archive had posted a series of images of empty BBC Television sets across the years to be used as Zoom and Teams Backgrounds.

I used these quite frequently in my Zoom meetings.

Despite new posts and more traffic, the second most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars, Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling which has been my number one post for a few years now, so had dropped one place. It was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then. Of course the pandemic has seen more usage of QR codes across all aspects of life, from Track and Trace, to ordering food in restaurants.

So the most popular blog post in 2021 was Using iPad as separate whiteboard in Teams. This was a post in response to a tweet on the Twitter.

This inspired me to give it a go and see if I could get it to work and as a result documented the process.

Digging up the streets

Long time followers of this blog may recall the long and winding story of my journey to a full fibre connection here in Weston Village in Weston-super-Mare.

Having moved from dial-up to an ADSL connection I was well pleased in 2010 when our local exchange was upgraded to FTTC and we could get a fibre connection.

Having moved house in 2012, literally just down the road, we lost FTTC and had to return to ADSL as the (different) cabinet we had been connected to wasn’t enabled for FTTC.

Five long years later we finally saw cabinet 25 getting the upgrade it needed and I could finally return to the fast speeds of FTTC.

Jump forward three years and following further work by BT Openreach I was able to upgrade to FTTP or as it was called Full Fibre resulting in a download speed of 1Gb/s, which was faster than the 30Mb/s I had with FTTC and significantly faster than the 1.3Mb/s ADSL connection we had when we first moved in.

I did think that was the end of the saga, well it was the end of the saga for me, the reality for Weston Village is that there is now a bundle of companies putting in fibre and cable connection. As a result there is a huge amount of roadworks and cable laying across the village. 

This is as you might imagine making a mess of the roads and pavements. 

So I am now also getting bombarded with pamphlets and advertising new fibre and television services.

Will I change, no, happy with the reliability and speed of my current connection.

But I blocked the Sun….

So I really miss Google Reader and I also miss Flipboard which worked really well with Google Reader. I’ve not really found an alternative that works for me in the same way that combination did.

I do use Apple News, but really don’t see the point of paying £10 a month for access to what appears to me to be The Times and Newsweek!

My main issues with Apple News are:

Over positioning and pushing of Apple News+ stories in an attempt to get you to subscribe to Apple News. So much so that much of the feed appears to be Apple News+ stories that it almost becomes a pointless exercise scrolling through the app.

Another issue is that local news is ignored to the point that news from Weston-super-Mare for example can be weeks or even months old and no new stories. Part of the problem is that Apple News uses mainstream sources for news, which means local news often is sidelined.

My final complaint about Apple News and hence the title of the blog, is that there are buttons you can use to like and unlike stories, and you can block certain news sources as well. However blocking to me, means that you don’t see the news stories at all! Well for Apple News, blocking means still having the news in the feed, but just then placing right there in front of you.

I blocked the source because I didn’t want to see it, so don’t put it in front of me, ever!

I really should be looking at alternatives for Apple News, so what are you using for curating and collating the news?

Marines with Jetpacks

Last September I blogged about how the Great North Air Ambulance Service as testing out a jet pack from Gravity Industries.

Now the Royal Marines are doing the same. The Royal Marines are testing out a jet suit, made by Gravity Industries, to assist in Maritime Boarding Operations.

Tech Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2020

In 2020 I wrote 43 blog posts, compared to 2019 when I wrote just 18. In 2019 none of the top ten posts were written in 2019. This time eight of the posts were published in 2020.

Photo by Todd Diemer on Unsplash

Number ten was from January 2020 when I wrote about the issues I had with my iPhone 6s Plus and Three.

Where’s my 4G gone?

Since upgrading the OS this has now sorted itself.

In ninth place was an old blog post from 2011 when I was scanning in QR Codes.

Wagamama QR Code

The eighth most popular blog post on the blog was from December 2020, Ten Great Christmas Zoom and Teams Backgrounds. Using the excellent image sites, UNsplash and Pixabay, I put together ten festive images that could be used as backgrounds for Zoom and Teams meetings.

Ten Great Christmas Zoom and Teams Backgrounds

In May my Pogo Printer died and I wrote about this and this was the post at number seven in the top ten, dropping five places from number two last year. This was one of two posts that were in last year’s top ten,

No more Pogo

The sixth most popular blog post was when I fixed a problem I was having with IIFTTT, Instagram and Twitter.

IFTTT Instagram Twitter problem fixed

In at number five on my top ten was some thoughts on working from home which I posted just before the March Covid-19 lockdown. I do a fair amount of remote working and location-independent working and am quite happy about doing this.

Some thoughts on working from home

Of course the lockdown was a totally different experience to what I was use to. No chance to pop out for coffee or off to the office when I didn’t want to work from home.

Having used the BBC backgrounds for a while and having some photographs when I visited The Harry Potter Studio Tour I decided to share some of the more suitable photos as backgrounds for Zoom and Teams and this was the fourth most popular post on the blog.

Harry Potter Teams and Zoom Backgrounds

In third place was a post on how the amazing BBC Archive had posted a series of images of empty BBC Television sets across the years to be used as Zoom or Teams backgrounds.

TARDIS

I used these quite frequently in my Zoom meetings.

BBC Zoom and Teams Backgrounds

The second most popular blog post in 2020 was Using iPad as separate whiteboard in Teams. This was a post in response to a tweet on the Twitter.

This inspired me to give it a go and see if I could get it to work and as a result documented the process.

Using iPad as separate whiteboard in Teams

Despite new posts and more traffic, the most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars,  Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling

Overall the blog became a lot more popular with December 2020 the busiest month in the life of the blog.

It’s fast…

Fibre
Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash

BT came round yesterday and fitted FTTP or full fibre as BT likes to call it. It was quite a painless process, so much so that I didn’t actually notice that the FTTC connection had been turned off and the FTTP turned on, well I was in the midst of writing an e-mail at the time.

They had to upgrade the terminal outside, drill a hole through the wall and mount the modem and the Smart Hub near some power sockets.

Now we have a 1Gb connection, though the reality with WiFI is that the most I can get is about 500Mb/s, but that is still 25 times faster than what I had before!

The speed and quality of the WiFi signal is much better and is working well It will take a little time to settle in over the next few weeks so the speed will fluctuate up and down. Though for my first Teams call after installation it was working a treat.

Accessing streaming video and downloading files is so much faster, but the other main benefit is better quality WiFi across the house. Though the signal degrades as you move away from the Hub, 20% of 400Mb/s is much better than 20% of 30Mb/s for doing stuff.

I had to go around and reconnect everything to the new wireless network, the Apple devices were the easiest as I could share the password across my devices just by bringing them close to each other.

Where I could use WPS that meant I could connect the printer and some Windows machines. The hardest devices to connect to the new wireless network was the Amazon Alexa devices, but got those done in the end.

We also got new digital phones.

It’s both the end and the beginning

fibre
Image by Daniel Dino-Slofer from Pixabay

I have placed an order for fibre to the premises FTTP with estimated speeds of 900Mb/s down and 110Mb/s up. Should be up and running in the next couple of weeks.

A few months back our local area was awash with BT Openreach vans.

I did wonder if they were installing full fibre connections, or fibre to the premises FTTP. I remember at the time doing a search, but no news on any kind of upgrade to either cabinet 25 or the Worle Exchange.

Bizarrely enough it was an advert on Instagram that caught my attention back on the 1st October. Almost for a joke I decided to see if I could get faster fibre, I wasn’t expecting to, but was quite surprised to see that I could in fact have FTTP! 

Having suffered poor ADSL speeds for many years, I was really pleased, in September 2017 when BT Openreach finally finished the upgrade to cabinet 25 and we could have FTTC fibre.

With roughly 30Mb/s download and 9Mb/s upload speed I felt I was back, in terms of internet speeds, where I was in 2012 at our old house before we moved. Eight years ago I blogged about how I lost my FTTC connection having moved house (literally just moved down the same road).

It took over five years for BT Openreach to upgrade Cabinet 25 so we could have FTTC.

One of the reasons I didn’t place an order straight away was that, if I ordered BT Full Fibre I would have to close my current internet account with my ISP. Now I have been with my ISP since 1998, they were my first ISP, well the first I paid for after a free trial with AOL. I had seen an advert in a computing magazine, they were called Force9 and were based in Sheffield.

I had a dial-up internet account with them initially where I paid a monthly fee for internet access as well as any telephone charges.

Stayed with them when I moved house. In June 2000, the Force9 brand was changed to Plusnet. This coincided with the introduction of the Surftime dialup internet products, the first real 24/7 unmetered dial-up service in the UK. This worked really well with the Airport Extreme base station I had with integrated modem. I could use my Mac to enable the connection and then use the wifi across the home to use the internet wherever I was in the house.

When ADSL was enabled in February 2003, I upgraded to this new faster internet. The always on nature of ADSL changed how I used the internet, and in some ways how the internet used me. 

Plusnet was sold to BT in 2007 and I think it lost a little of its soul that day, but I stuck with them.

On this day in 2010 I upgraded to FTTC and this was a real revelation. With 40Mb down and 10Mb up this is significantly faster than the 1.3 down and 0.6 up I had before.

I was so disappointed when we moved house two years later and lost it and went back to the slow speeds of ADSL.

Five years later, cabinet 25 was upgraded and we had fibre back.

new fibre cabinet 25

All that time I was with Force9 or Plusnet as they like to be called.

When I found out I could have FTTP from BT, I did think I should be able to get FTTP from Plusnet as I recalled they were doing FTTP trials a few years back. Alas it was apparent that they don’t do FTTP products. So it was with a little sadness (don’t know why) that I ordered the BT Full Fibre product and this automatically activated the cancellation of my account with Plusnet.

It’s the end of one era and the start of another.

The future is coming…

The future I was told about as a child is finally arriving….

The concept of paramedics wearing jet packs is been tested in the Lake District in a collaboration between the Great North Air Ambulance Service and Gravity Industries.

 So rather than walk up a hill, taking thirty minutes to reach a patient, the paramedic wearing the jet suit can reach them in under ninety seconds. This could prove vital in delivering the necessary primary care to an injured walker, or those who have had a heart attack.

The paramedic doesn’t do an IronMan and fly up into the sky, they use the jet suit to hover a short distance above the ground and then use the jets on their arms to manoeuvre and direct them along.

You can start to imagine other applications of this technology…

The future I was told about as a child is finally arriving….

“I just turned on my TV…”

old TV
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I love this story as reported by the BBC about a small village in Wales which was having persistent broadband outages and it was proving difficult to work out what the cause of the problem was. After eighteen months engineers began an investigation after a cable replacement programme did nit fix the issue.

Eventually after sweeping the village with detection devices they narrowed it down to a single house. What was happening was the person in the house was switching on their old TV at 7am every morning and the electrical interference emitted by their second-hand television was affecting the broadband signal.

They have now promised not to turn on the TV anymore!

We know that there are many potential problems with electrical devices interfering with broadband connections, as well as other devices in the home playing havoc with wifi signals as well. It’s never easy.